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Name: Strong v. Superior Court (Orange County)
Case #: G045192
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 08/29/2011

Penal Code section 194, effective 1969 but amended 1997, establishes the equivalent of statute of limitations, subject to ex post facto concerns. Former Penal Code section 194, effective 1969 to 1997, held that to make a killing murder or manslaughter, the decedent must die within three years and a day after the cause of death is administered. Petitioners were sentenced to state prison in 1981 for the attempted murder and assault of a police officer. They paroled in the 1990’s. In 2010, the officer died, with the coroner determining that death was caused by delayed complications from the gunshot wounds he received, and petitioners were charged with murder. In this petition for writ of mandate, the appellate court found that the language of the relevant version of section 194 was clear and unambiguous in establishing a “time-based” immunity, precluding prosecution of petitioners for murder, and rejected the prosecution’s suggestion that the statute did not involve ex post facto considerations as it was only a procedural change which modified a rule of evidence. Although the statute was later amended to provide that “if death occurs beyond . . . three years and a day, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the killing was not criminal,” applying the amended version in this case after the applicable limitations period expired violated the prohibition against ex post facto laws.